Health equity means that everyone has fair and just access to the resources, opportunities, and information they need to achieve their highest level of health.
People can gain health equity when they have access to healthy food, clean water, safe living conditions, and affordable and high-quality healthcare.
What is health equity?
Health equity is a way to ensure that everyone has the same opportunity to get the best possible health care. However, it is essential to know the information on health equity outside of a person’s control can prevent them from getting the proper care they need.
Health inequities are the differences in health and health care between people of different races, ethnic groups, ages, genders, socioeconomic statuses, disabilities, and other factors. These inequities can lead to a higher number of deaths and preventable diseases.
Throughout history, many advocates have waged campaigns to improve the health of different groups of people. These include racial and ethnic minority health, women’s, mental, children’s, veterans’, rural, and LGBT health.
While many of these campaigns have been successful, some lingering inequities still affect everyone. For example, Black Americans have lower life expectancy than white Americans, and Native American women die at much higher rates than non-Native women.
Health disparities result from discrimination, poverty, lack of access to medical services, and other factors negatively hurting an individual’s health. These inequities are why many people of color and other underserved groups experience poorer health and higher mortality than their white counterparts.
Why is health equity significant?
Health equity is significant because everyone should have access to health care and be able to reach their highest possible health potential. In addition, people’s health is affected by the social determinants of health, which are the conditions in which people live and work that influence a person’s overall health and well-being.
These determinants include housing, education, income, transportation, environment, and neighborhood conditions (social or physical). Throughout a person’s life, these determinants influence their decisions and behaviors.
When these determinants are inequitable, it results in health inequities and affects the quality of life for all individuals.
Those inequities hurt public health and lead to more preventable illnesses and deaths.
Health inequities also cause higher medical costs for society, which can add up to a significant amount of money. Moreover, they have implications for national security and our economy.
To achieve health equity, we must understand the underlying causes of health inequities and address them through policy and action. These efforts can be achieved through a variety of strategies.
Health equity is a human right and is an absolute necessity for all citizens to enjoy the highest possible levels of health and well-being. It involves addressing the root causes of health inequities by empowering those most vulnerable to access the resources they need to achieve their health goals.
How can I get involved in health equity?
If you’re interested in helping people achieve health equity, there are many ways to get involved. First, start by learning about health inequities in your community. This will allow you to be a part of the conversation about local challenges and national concerns.
If you work for a healthcare organization, consider making health equity a systemwide strategic priority. This will help your organization align the vision with its overall outcomes improvement goals and ensure everyone is committed to the plan.
Achieving health equity involves changing the societal conditions that make some people healthier, including addressing poverty, structural racism, income inequality, and education inequities. These issues will require system-level change and will take time to address.
In addition to the system-level changes, individuals can make a difference in their community by showing respect and inclusion of all groups, frequently evaluating how policies aimed at reducing health disparities are working, and using their talents and time to help others overcome barriers to healthcare.
Achieving health equity will involve a lot of work, but it can also be a rewarding and worthwhile experience. It will also allow you to learn more about your community and the social, economic, and environmental factors contributing to health inequities. By taking action to improve health in your community, you can help others achieve their highest potential.
What are the root causes of health inequities?
Health inequities are a global problem caused by systematic differences in the opportunities people have to achieve optimal health. Inequities negatively impact everyone — but especially historically marginalized groups.
People with less power and resources often experience worse outcomes than those with more, both physically and emotionally. This is because it can take a lot of work to get the care they need.
The World Health Organization defines the root causes of health inequities as “the conditions of daily life that influence health, and the inequitable distribution of power, money, and resources that are structural drivers of those conditions.”
These multiple determinants encompass social, environmental, economic, and cultural factors shaping people’s experiences and health. Among the most significant determinants are residential segregation, poverty, housing quality, pollution, access to clean water, and safe places to live.
As a result, these factors can lead to poor health outcomes, including low income and poverty, low education, lack of access to medical services, poor nutrition, inability to exercise, and violence or exposure to toxic substances.
As healthcare systems look for ways to improve patient health, they should address these upstream factors to reduce inequities that may lead to poor outcomes. They should also pursue long-term strategies to build healthier neighborhoods, expand access to housing and drive economic development.